Is it really the beginning of week 3 of the semester already? Between a rough re-entry from Italy, a couple of snow days, catching up on my day job, and a stomach flu, the new course Paul Bond and I are teaching this semester has been woefully neglected on the bava. This post will try and remedy that.
Paul and I have teamed up again to teach the entry-level Computer Science course CPSC 104, also known as THE INTERNET COURSE. The course provides students with an overview of the history, technical infrastructure, and cultural implications of the internet as a communication revolution. Here is the catalog description:
A survey of the technology and issues underlying the use of the Internet for communication, resource discovery, research, and dissemination of information in multimedia formats. Topics include an introduction to Internet protocols, Internet history and development, electronic mail, use and functions of a Web browser, accessing Internet services and resources, using the Internet for research, Website design and implementation, and social, legal, and ethical issues related to using the Internet.
We are planning on covering all these topics and more, but we’ve decided to take a different approach. Rather than a predefined syllabus with a list of our handpicked readings, we’ve decided to take the first two weeks of class and have the students select the readings. What I love about this approach is that it challenges the popular idea that a course is defined by the pre-selected readings, resources, textbooks, etc. Is that really the case? What if a course were from the very beginning about students contributing to the discussion by critically selecting the sources that make-up the experience. That’s exactly what we’ve done thanks to Paul’s vision for the course. During week 1 we had the class consider how to vett resources with the help of the UMW Library’s CRAAP test video animated by the great Giulia Forsythe and narrated by UMW English professor Gary Richards. CRAAP is an acronym that provides some guidelines for selecting good sources on a topic: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.
After we discussed the basics of the CRAAP test in our second class, we broke the roadmap for the class up into eight topics:
- where it comes from
- how it works
- intellectual property/fair use
- digital identity
- social/economic/cultural impacts
- where it’s going
The rest of this class was spent brainstorming subtopics for each of the eight topics. This was an invigorating session because everyone was providing a wide range of solid subtopics that would help them get started on their research. By the end of the hour and fifteen minutes each student was assigned two topics for which they would need to find six readings (3 for each of their two topics) in a weeks time.
Paul came up with a pretty cool system for the submission of these readings so that we could vett them according to the guidelines of the CRAAP test. Paul setup a Google form for students to add their sources that you can see on the course site here. Once they submitted their readings, we color-coded them green, yellow, or red in the spreadsheet based on whether they are good to go (green), questionable (yellow), not acceptable (red). The students can get the feedback on the course site, and return to the library for more and better research if necessary. They need to have at least 3 green sources, and justify anything that is yellow. Paul lays out the system in far better detail in his post “Talking CRAAP.”
The final part of this process is that the students have to summarize the articles they found and tag them with the appropriate topic before publishing them to their blog. After that they will syndicate into the course site and we’ll have 140+ articles linked and summarized as by the beginnign of week 3. What’s more, the articles can be filtered by topic. Paul was inspired by an experiment Michael Wesch did back in 2009. Whereas it reminds me of some of the work Michael Caulfield is doing currently with his Water106 idea around crowdsourced articles fed into a hub around a specific topic.
I’m really excited by this new approach. We’ll be playing with concept maps this coming week, and after that, for the next 6-8 weeks the students will form panels accordingly to their topics and discuss the readings they found on their topics as a way of interrogating the historical, technical, and cultural elements of THE INTERNET.